Royal Screwup


Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance? (1 Samuel 10:1)

Normally when God hires somebody for a job he makes a pretty decent choice. That doesn’t mean the new employee is perfect, but that he generally works out in the end. Abraham was a cowardly liar, but he did start the circumcision club. Moses did a lot of whining, but he got his people out of Egypt. Deborah was a—well, was a girl, but she was a Hebrew Amazon. Samson may have been blinded by love but he had nice hair and kicked plenty of Philistine butt. Overall, God was a fair talent scout.

But then there was Saul. He was tall. He was strong. He was good looking. And he was one of God’s biggest casting fiascoes. We don’t have to rehearse the long history of his political ineptitude, social incompetence, and emotional dysfunction. Saul was unstable, paranoid, presumptuous, and lousy at Donkey Kong. He was one of the Old Testament’s biggest losers, hands down.

It’s not that God didn’t give him a little help. He sent the prophet Samuel to instruct him for one thing, and Samuel was about as close as you could get to the red phone in the Oval office. But Samuel had nothing but trouble with his delinquent head-up-his-aspirations megalomaniac. Then God went out of his way to give Saul a boost in the ratings and “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power.” But other than rapping on the street corner with a bunch of prophetic home boys Saul didn’t reap a lot of benefits from that perk. He only ended up being a Spirit-filled delinquent head-up-his-aspirations megalomaniac.

God gets fed up and “an evil spirit from God” comes “forcefully upon Saul.” That God would send an evil spirit in the first place may mess with a few namby-pamby theologies, but there it is. God is really ticked; he sends a cherubic reject to bug the hell out of Saul, and what does he get for his efforts? Saul is now a demon-possessed, Spirit-filled, delinquent head-up-his-aspirations megalomaniac who now is trying to kill David, the understudy whom God is tapping to take over the lead role in the continuing adventures of the Chosen People who can’t get their freaking act together. As a curtain call, Saul hires a witch to conjure up a very deceased Samuel to see if the dead guy can give him any pointers on how to stay alive. Survivor: The Hebrew Edition.

In a belated act of good taste, God finally closes the Saul Show out of town. The Kooky King is offed by his own sword (think sheesh kabob) and God is able to send in the designated hitter for the Broadway run. There is great relief among the critics, and God is overheard as he coaches the new star David, “Listen. Murder I can handle, adultery I can overlook—but don’t you ever make me look like an idiot. You got that, Davie?”

The rest, they say, is show biz.


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